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Complex Citizenship and Legitimacy in Compound Polities (MLPs and MLG):The EU as example

  • Law
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


My aim in this essay is neither to summarize the rapidly growing literatures on concepts and practices of complex citizenship nor the exponentially growing social science literature that analyses multi-level polities and/or developing new forms of governance. Instead, I look at some problems and inevitable trade-offs from a constitutional and democracy theory perspective, distinguishing analytically and empirically as clearly as possible between problems inherent in multi-level polities (MLPs) and problems arising from new forms of multi-level governance (MLG), and discussing the various ways of solving them. I take the following considerations as my guide: In themselves MLPs and MLG are neither undemocratic nor democratic, but suffer from inherent difficulties regarding constitutional and democratic organization, control and legitimacy. Compared with non-pluralist systems, MLPs do of course have considerable advantages: diversity gains and gains in efficiency and effectiveness. The tensions between democratic legitimacy and effectiveness have to be acknowledged, but constitutional and democratic legitimacy in MLPs and MLGs is far more complex than is assumed in standard lamentos on e.g. EU’s notorious ‘democratic deficit’. The decisive and urgent normative problem can be summed up as follows: what proposals would contribute to making MLPs and MLG in general, and the EU in particular, both more constitutional and more democratic (more transparent, open and inclusive, easier to control, and more representative and politically legitimate), without compromising or sacrificing effectiveness and efficiency as a result and loosing out on the diversity and plurality of the interests they represent?

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